January 17, 2018

CONSIDER FOR A MOMENT...:

The Patriots' Super Bowl Path Is The Easiest In Modern NFL History (Neil Paine, 1/17/18, 538)

For one thing, the AFC was exceptionally weak this year. In inter-conference play during the regular season, NFC teams went 41-23 against their AFC counterparts, which was the second-best record for one conference against the other in a season since 1990. (Only the 2004 season, in which the AFC went 44-20 against the NFC, saw a wider split.) As a result, the AFC playoff field contained only two teams with more than 10 regular-season wins, as opposed to five in the NFC. That meant a path was already forming for the top-seeded Pats to sail through to another Super Bowl.

Then a few key upsets boosted New England's advantage. First, the Tennessee Titans toppled the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild-card game, setting up a huge divisional-round mismatch at Gillette Stadium. According to Elo, the Pats were favored by 12, since Tennessee rated at 1499 -- below the league average rating of 1505 -- even after knocking off K.C. That made it the third-most lopsided divisional matchup since 1990, trailing only the Pats vs. the Tim Tebow Broncos in the 2011 season and Minnesota vs. Arizona in 1998. The Titans hung with the Pats for about a quarter, but New England eventually dropped 35 unanswered points on Tennessee and rolled to victory.

The next day, another upset further cleared the way for New England. The Jaguars went into Heinz Field and took a quick 28-7 lead over the stunned Pittsburgh Steelers, then hung on for a 45-42 win. Elo had only given the Jags a 24 percent chance of winning -- even lower than Tennessee's chances at Kansas City -- and it still only ranks Jacksonville as the 12th-best team in football, below five teams that were knocked out of the playoffs and three that didn't even make it to the playoffs.

Just like that, the two AFC teams Elo thought had the best chance of beating the Pats going into the playoffs -- the Chiefs and the Steelers -- were gone, and in their place were a below-average team and another that doesn't rate much higher. According to Elo, New England is a 10-point favorite to beat Jacksonville, with an 81 percent chance of winning the Lamar Hunt Trophy yet again.

If we multiply together the Patriots' pregame odds of beating the Titans (85 percent) with that of the Jaguars (81 percent), we could say they had a staggering 69 percent chance of making the Super Bowl before they ever played a game. (This is assuming we'd somehow know that both of their opponents would pull off the upsets they did.) That's easily the best number for any conference title-game participant since 1990.


...that the "difficult" path would have required only beating Andy Reid and Mike Tomlin, which Rich Kotite might manage.

Posted by at January 17, 2018 6:41 PM

  

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